Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Army Corps Testifies on Hurricane Ida Response  CSPAN  October 29, 2021 5:46pm-7:04pm EDT

5:46 pm
testify on the response to hurricane ida. they answer questions on a variety of topics including disaster preparedness, correlations between climate change and extreme weather events and investment in critical infrastructure systems. the senate environment and public works committee host. this is just over an hour and 15 minutes.
5:47 pm
>> good morning. i'm pleased to join our
5:48 pm
colleagues to call this hearing to order. welcome, everyone. to our witnesses joining us today from the army corps of engineers major general butch graham. how long have people been calling you butch? >> since i was born. so i'm a junior and my dad took bill graham, so they didn't call me billy graham. >> all right. my mother wanted me to grow up and be billy graham. down in virginia we spend a lot of time at baptist church if you know what i mean. welcome, butch graham. nice to see you again. and to colonel steve murphy, delighted you can join us today and your supporting team. we welcome all of you. thank you for joining us for what sadly has become an all too frequent issue the last couple of years and that is providing emergency response in the aftermath of extreme weather. each of our witnesses comes from
5:49 pm
a different position and we were just talking about that. they're going to share with us their points of view on the corps response to hurricane ida as well as their response to investing in infrastructure on bidding back better as our president likes to say. as we all know since 19 # 0 north atlantic hurricanes have become more intense and unfortunately more frequent. this trend is projected to continue in the years ahead as our planet continues to warm. importantly the importance of the corps emergency response will grow as well. that's why we must ensure all parts of our government that is federal, local and state are all working together in lock step to improve resiliency of our infrastructure so it can withstand these extreme storms. new orleans had a $14.5 billion
5:50 pm
protection system was really a great example of a smart, all of government approach to resilience, one where the federal government funded the total cost of the project, and the state of louisiana has now begun to pay back its actually similar arrangement on a highway in delaware. 301, route 301, you go east from d.c. and get to maryland and finally get into delaware, 301, they fund the money and the state of delaware is taking a similar approach. when ida made landfall exactly 16 years after katrina, this new system was put to its first test. and fortunately, it held strong and prevented catastrophic flooding in new orleans that we saw in 2005. this is where we can see that federal investment and resiliency pays real dividends. challenges still remain. one of the biggest obstacles with projects like the one in
5:51 pm
louisiana and in the river inland in delaware is they rely on reimbursements to cover the cost of operating and maintaining these projects. but the corps can't always recover all these costs, leaving states and communities to foot the bills. the result is that area is strapped for resources and unable to make investments in resilience that they desperately need. we know the stakes can't be higher, including our economy, our homes, and people's very lives and livelihoods are at stake. just look at how louisiana fares during ida, while sophisticated water infrastructure in new orleans protected much of the city from flooding, other communities in the state were devastated. i think we might have a photo of that. there we go. my home state of delaware, which found itself in the path of ida's remnants, as the storm turned north, we experienced extreme beach erosion, flooding,
5:52 pm
and wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour. and i think, do we have -- that's a shot of smith bridge road that we saw. new jersey faced similar shoreline erosion and many of us saw the videos of water rushing through, flooding cities, suburban systems, while the final number of deaths attributed to hurricane ida is not yet in, so we know of 29 confirmed deaths in louisiana, more than 40 in new york and in new jersey, with deaths reported in at least seven additional states. in addition to its tragic human toll, experts predict ida's impact at over $90 billion, making it the seventh costliest hurricane to hit the united states since the year 2000. think about that. seven hurricanes, each responsible for more than $90 billion in economic impact, all within 20 years. seven within 20 years. like all major storms, ida
5:53 pm
teached us a lot, including about what works and what does not work, and why we can all be thankful for human engineering that protects new orleans, one of the nation's most vital port system, from ida's destruction. we also must recognize until we address the root causes, the u.s. will continue to face natural disasters of increasing severity. that's why we need to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gases and create a lot of jobs while doing so. benjamin franklin said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cower, and his words still ring true today. the corps of engineers civil works program provides tremendous value to our nation. it's a primary provider of water, resources, infrastructure, and with more extreme weather caused by a changing climate, it's never
5:54 pm
been more important than infrastructure stands up to the growing challenge and protects the people we all represent. we look forward to hearing each of your testimonies today, but first, i want to turn to shelly caputo, we call wingman, wingwoman, but we're partners in crime here, but overall, we're partners doing a lot of good. i want to turn it over for her opening statement. we all have competing meetings. and it's a business meeting where they need me to come and be there for the quorum and do votes. we're going to do that in the beginning, and you're in charge at the start of the witnesses and i'll come back as fast as i can. thank you. >> thank you, and good morning to everybody. it's good to see a familiar face here in major general graham who served as commander of the pittsburgh district, when i was in congress, you were my corps leader. which covers a significant portion of my state in west
5:55 pm
virginia. colonel murphy, thank you for being here today and for the warm hospitality extended by you and your team to the committee staff during their visit to the corps facilities in louisiana earlier this week. where want to thank you also, general tickner, for being here with us today. thank you for your service. i know some of it has not been domestic. some of it has been international, and thank you for that. we all intently watched the impacts and aftermath of hurricane ida, both in louisiana and also in the northeast. tragically, an estimated 82 people lost their lives and billions of dollars in damages. those of us from states and communities that have recently experienced a terrible natural disaster, so greatly for our fellow americans impacted by this fellow hurricane, as ranking member of this committee and of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee, my staff and i have stayed abreast of fema's response to this disaster and the efforts that other agencies providing support such as the corps, how important that has been.
5:56 pm
but the most recent counts, the corps has more than 710 personnel deployed and received 24 mission assignments totaling 223.4 million dollars in response to hurricane ida. the corps has also issued $2.5 million in flood control and coastal emergency funds under public law 84-99. this funding went towards the protection and repair of critical infrastructure, as well as the provision of equipment and facilities to fight floods and maintain essential services. again, want to reiterate my gratitude to the men and women of the corps for performing these critical eager to hear f how we can help the nation respond and recover from these types of disasters in the future. by all accounts, and our chair talked about this, the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system for new orleans
5:57 pm
authorized by congress and constructed by the corps after the catastrophe of hurricane katrina performed as intended. this system prevented a more significant loss of life and severe damage to the city. not all areas are covered by this system, however, and that's where we saw the devastation and the unprotected communities in louisiana and replicated in the northeastern states. it's important that local state and federal partners continue to work together to identify and address existing gaps in flood risk management and coastal storm damage reduction. the $5.7 billion in supplemental funded provided by the congress to the court last week will support these efforts. solutions will take time, however, which is why it's also important that the corps continues to work with communities to identify and mitigate risks through its silver jackets program. planning assistance to state and other authorities. challenges with and suggested improvements to existing
5:58 pm
technical assistance programs are something i'm keen on hearing from all of you. i'm also eager to hear about how we can support the corps' efforts to help the nation respond and recover from these disasters in the future. this committee will do its part in this process by authorizing individual projects and studies and providing programmatic direction to the corps to develop resources which we're actively engaged in. let me reiterate our gratitude and again i want to thank chairman carper for having this hearing. so i would like to introduce our witnesses, in the absence of our chair. first, major general william butch graham is the current deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations at headquarters u.s. army corps of engineers where he oversees all of the corps' civil work activities. a $7 billion annual program and responsive to storms and other natural disasters. the previous corps assignments include commander of north
5:59 pm
atlantic division and first district from which he hails. our second witness is brigadier general tom tickner. he oversees a $5 billion annual program that covers six districts including activities in more than a dozen states, africa, and europe. his previous corps command assignments include pacific ocean division, savannah division, and philadelphia district. our third witness is colonel steve murphy. he's the current commander of the new orleans district where he oversees all corps activities of southern louisiana. you're a busy man. he previously commanded the national district of the corps of engineers. i want to welcome each of you to the committee today. we appreciate your service to the country and look forward to your statements. so general graham, we'll start with you. >> ranking member caputo and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today to discuss the u.s. army corps of
6:00 pm
engineer's emergency response to hurricane ida. i'm general butch graham. i would like to start by extending our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones in hurricane ida. our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been impacted by this storm. as was mentioned frk hurricane ida made landfall on august 29th as a category-4 storm and immediately began to draw comparisons to hurricane katrina. as was mentioned following hurricane katrina and the devastating flooding in the city of new orleans, the $14 million hurricane reduction risk system was built, and as its name implied, it was built to reduce the risk of flooding in the city. during hurricane ida, this system performed exactly as designed. the projects the corps builds help to reduce the flood risk of vulnerable communities, we must also be prepared to respond when
6:01 pm
some of the flood risks are actually realized. this aspect of resiliency is received by our partnerships with fema, state and local governments, and our key contracting partners. in response to hurricane ida, as many as 760 corps personnel have been deployed so we snuck an extra 50 in on you. and the corps has indeed done 24 fema assignments totaling almost $250 billion. as was mentioned in our own authorities, the corps has issued $2.5 million of flood control and coastal emergency funds. as part of this massive response with the team, i'm proud of, i would like to highlight one of our missions, temporary roofing. operation blue roof managed by the corps on behalf of fema. the goal of the program is to provide homeowners in disaster areas with industrial strength sheeting to protect storm damaged roofs. this allows residents to return to their home, restarting local communities and local economies. since september 1st, the corps has received over 34,000 valid
6:02 pm
requests, and as of this morning, we have completed over half. 17,000 roofs have been installed to date. to put this in context, last year for the two hurricanes that hit the gulf coast, the corps installed 13,000. so 13,000 last year, we're up to 34,000 we need to install this year. and we have completed 17,000 to date. this three-fold increase provides a perspective of just how damaging ida was. after any event, working with fema, we quickly evaluate to see where we can improve. for the temporary roofing mission, even though we are installing roofs at almost twice the rate as our previous efforts, we're looking for ways to get started sooner by speeding up how we get work orders to our contractors, and by bringing in potentially our contractors early, prelandfall. looking more broadly, we continue to see record-setting severe weather events across the nation. last year alone, we responded to 28 different disasters including
6:03 pm
10 hurricanes, 9 major floods, and 3 major wildfires. one of the ways we're responding to the challenge in the future is by incorporating climate change rezil yans into our planning process. a broader, more regional approach to planning for future events is required. recently, the chief of engineers made recommendation for the authorization of a $29 billion system wide risk management strategy for the coastline of texas. when looking at any future project, we understand we need to comprehensively evaluate and analyze all project benefits. the water resources development act of 2020 created flexibility for the army corps to address the needs of economically disadvantaged communities, minority communities, and rural communities. the act promotes an approach that analyzes multiple benefits for project justification. social benefits, economic benefits, and environmental benefits. the authorities in this act encourage the use of natural and nature based features, seek alternatives to accommodate for
6:04 pm
sea level rise and inspire innovative ways to expand material. we're working hard to put these new authorities to work for the american people. and thank you again for the opportunity to speak today. and i look forward to answering any questions. >> thank you. general tickner. >> ranking member caputo, distinguished members of the committee, i'm brigadier general tom tickner, commander of the corps' north atlanta division. thank you for the opportunity to provide context to the corps's response to hurricane ida in the northeast region. as storm risk management is a shared responsibility, one executed best in a whole of community approach, the corps' partners with federal agencies and nonfederal stakeholders. this collective skill set and combined with the capability enhances our effectiveness in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from storm events. in my role, i'm responsible for federal engineering work in all
6:05 pm
parts of the 14 northeastern states from virginia to maine. before the storm hit our region, my districts were able to ubstain reliable, advanced information concerning potential ida impacts from the national hurricane center, the u.s. geological survey, the national weather service river forecast centers, and other meteorological data. this data obtained through public law 8499 authority assisted in the accurate predictions of potential consequences ida could bring, and we were able to communicate this risk to fema and the states through the corps' mapping systems. to manage risk and operate a project, we conducted predictive analysis based on weather forecasts and the division lowered the corps's dam reservoir before the rain arrived to obtain the maximum amount of flood storage available to reduce potential impacts downstream. we provided early support to our state and local partners by contacting them to determine
6:06 pm
their needs. several of our district emergency operation centers activated to provide technical assistance under pl-8499. flood fighting materials such as sandbags, plastic sheeting and alternate flood fighting materials were placed on standby, prepositioned, and ultimately released as needed. when the remnants of hurricane ida arrived, we were impacted mostly by significant events where rainfall overwhelmed storm water systems and inundated local streams, leading to flash flood events and isolated tornadoes. as part of our post-emergency assessment, i was able to conduct site surveys of locations within the storm's impact area. these locations included areas where the corps has conducted studies as in the passaic river basin in new jersey, manville, new jersey, and in merrimack, new york. i also surveyed sites where the corps has active projects like the indian rock dam in
6:07 pm
pennsylvania and the raritan river in new jersey. i'm happy to report our projects performed as designed. finally, i observed areas where there was significant impact but no current corps studies. we also provided technical expertise to the states, including a corps liaison officer to both pennsylvania and new jersey state emergency operation centers. a subject matter expert to new jersey eoc, and on watering information for the pennsylvania department of transportation. both fema regions two and three along with the states they supported, pennsylvania and new jersey and new york, were satisfied with our proactive approach to this event. in the aftermath of superstorm sandy, congress asked for a performance report analyzing how our completed project performed. that report and other work following sandy has heightened our intent to build resilience into our coastal storm risk
6:08 pm
management and flood risk management projects. together with our federal and nonfederal partners, we are currently completing post-storm evaluations to determine impact and develop sufficiency reports for these projects. an initial assessment shows damaged incurred through some of the flood risk management project elements which would require an investment and repairs. in addition to the repairs and maintenance we conduct on thee projects, in some cases, the corps recommends a comprehensive assessment of their status, to include review of performance criteria and recommendations for updating based on current science, recent storm events, and factors such as climate change. in common with much of the nation's infrastructure, many of our projects require continuing investment in operation and maintenance to insure their effectiveness. the corps' team is committed to working together with our federal interagency, state and local partners to provide best engineering solutions for the tough challenges facing our communities. thank you again for inviting us to speak today. i look forward to your
6:09 pm
questions. >> thank you. next we'll have colonel murphy. >> good morning, i'm steve murphy, and on behalf of my team and i, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today and discuss the corps' response to hurricane ida and my district area of operations. my area of operation encompasses all the south of louisiana from texas in the west to mississippi in the east, day in and day out, i focus in large part on coastal and climate change issues. the louisiana coast is a working coast. as the state calls it, due to the significance of its activities and waterways and their benefits to the national economy. these include five of the nation's top busiest ports, the mississippi river is the busiest waterway in the nation and our economic waterway as well as the intercoastal waterway which is the nation's third busiest
6:10 pm
waterway. all of which have been and continue to be impacted by gulf storms. the majority of the state's population also lives in the southern half of the state near the coast. coastal louisiana sits at the epicenter of climate change. sea level rise and subsidence coexcesses as threats that are major threats for the corps and the state. consequently, my major missions are navigation, coastal and environmental restoration, coastal storm risk management, and flood risk management, flooding of any kind, whether from rainfall, storm surge, or river flooding or in what has been occurring on a more frequent basis, the occurrence of all three at the same time, is a major concern for the state and for my district. the men and women of my district are residents of south louisiana. during a storm, they endure the same impacts as their neighbors. for them, working with our partners to insure a promising future in coastal louisiana is not just a professional
6:11 pm
responsibility. it is a personal commitment. during ida, almost a third of my 1100 person workforce evacuated out of state. to include my wife and children. almost all of us lost power, and almost half saw some form of damage to their homes with 37 of us experiencing so much damage from ida that their homes are now unlivable. while we couldn't be more proud of the performance of the greater new orleans area's hurricane storm damage risk reduction system and how it validated the massive national investment of $14.5 billion, i think you have heard about already, other parts of the state were not as fortunate. where there was federal investment in levees and flood walls, though, the systems performed as designed. hurricane ida has validated and re-enforced many of the lessons we learned over the last 16 years since hurricane katrina made landfall. the systems that the federal government invested in have re-enforced the value of the corps' system-wide approach and demonstrated the importance of
6:12 pm
sustainability and resilience that the corps has incorporated since then into its design. we have projects currently under way that are now incorporating these principles outside of the greater new orleans area. we're now in day 40 of recovery from hurricane ida. i'll close by saying there could not be a better team to handle natural disasters and climate change than the team that has gathered, federal, state, and local, in louisiana. everyone here knows disaster response is truly a team sport. i do not think we could be working more closely or more cooperatively with the state of louisiana than we are right now. after personally experiencing two of the longest lower mississippi flood fights in history, the most active atlantic hurricane season last year, the covid pandemic, and now hurricane ida, i can definitively say that this is a highly functional and collaborative team that has made
6:13 pm
the usa's response in support of the state and these disasters and especially ida successful. the same spirit and cooperation also drives the corps investigation and implementation of natural and nature based solutions that are in sync with the state's 50-year, $50 billion master plan. this includes dredge material for coastal restoration, environmental mitigation to the consideration in the regulatory program of large scale diversions of the lower mississippi river aimed at restoring the coast and making it more resilient. i could go on but out of respect for your time and to allow for questions, i'll close there. >> thank you, colonel. we will go to questions. and belated happy birthday to my colleague from maryland, senator cardin. >> well, senator, thank you very much. i only had 364 days remaining until my birthday, so thank you. i appreciate that. first of all, thank you all very
6:14 pm
much for your service. we really do appreciate the leadership the army corps is critically important to maryland, critically important to all of our states. i was in louisiana, new orleans, after katrina. our committee went down there to inspect first-hand the damage that was done. it was shocking. so the $14.5 billion investment is one we all supported, and it worked, as you all said. we're proud of what we were table do to mitigate the hurricane ida. we also recognize that these storms are becoming more frequent and more severe. and that we have a responsibility to deal with the realities of climate change, both in mitigating future pollutants that are eating our greenhouse -- emitting greenhouse gases, as well as adapt to the realities.
6:15 pm
and your responsibilities on adapting to the realities, i want to touch on briefly. many years ago, we made a decision in maryland to invest in nourishment, because the northeast was becoming more and more severe, and we invested millions of dollars and the result has been billions of dollars of savings. and savings of life. so these types of investments really pay off dramatically. but there's also a change in the risk factors that i'm seeing in our communities. we saw it during ida. we have had flooding before. because of a long sequence of rain and causing banks to rise beyond what they can handle, and you have dealt with that issue through your flood management programs. but in recent years, we have found something different occurring. and that is the large volume in
6:16 pm
a short period of time of rainfall. that was true during ida. so it wasn't really the integrity of the flood system. it was more the extreme amount of rain in a very short period of time. i mentioned that because in maryland, as you all know, we experienced in a 20-month period, two 100-year floods. what was really unique about these floods that we had never experienced this type of flooding before. we have seen the rivers rise and cause flooding into the city. we had never seen the lorj volume of rain appear in a short period of time that couldn't possibly be managed by the current system. so my question to you, as we look at these new risk factors, of more violent storms, not necessarily hurricanes, just large volume of rain coming down in a very short period of time that are flooding communities. how do we prepare for this?
6:17 pm
now, i appreciate, colonel, you mentioning the beneficial use of dredge materials. we're doing that and replenishing wetlands. that's part of our strategy. because wetlands not only manage the flooding situation, but it also manages the pollutants going in from run-off. it's an part of our strategy. i'm interested as to what your recommendations are to us to manage the realities of the current risk factors on violent storms occurring with a large amount of rain in a short period of time, which is not the way we have traditionally been dealing with infrastructure to prevent flooding? >> senator, thank you for that question. and let me address that. we have put together, the administration has directed it, a climate action plan.
6:18 pm
and it's right up now and expect that to be released soon. it has five major components to it. and i think those address your concerns. those five major components are, we have to modernize our approach. and that's our programs and our policies to deal with a different future. we have to manage better the facilities we do operate, like the dams around philadelphia that general tickner mentioned. we have got to enable, as colonel murphy mentioned, our partners. a lot is sharing our science with that. i know some of the committee staff members went to north carolina and saw some of the science being created. we have to share that information with our local partners. and that includes actionable data that can stand up to scrutiny. so folks, local communities, states realize the challenges that they're under. and then finally, senator, we have got to plan and put into operation those futures, and
6:19 pm
this authorizing committee plays a key role in that. thank you. >> thank you. my time has run out. i just would urge us to think about how we can work in partnership to deal with these extreme raining events that are causing communities to be extremely vulnerable. and we can't -- it's hard to plan for every part of our community getting an extreme weather event, but we have to have a game plan for our communities because it is occurring. we saw it during ida. we have seen it several times in maryland. it's unprecedented, the type of flood risk that we currently have. so we're going to be looking to you in this report to give us a game plan on how we can protect communities the best that we can from the realities of these storms. thank you, madam chair. >> senator inhofe. >> thank you, madam chair. i know this hearing is on ida,
6:20 pm
but all three of the individuals who are witnesses here were participants in a real tragedy we faced in 2019, a flooding case in oklahoma where we had levees that were 75 years old and well, well past their normal historic lifetime, and they held up. i can remember actually being up to my waist in water during that time, and so it's something that we were very fortunate, and since that time, we have been on pins and needles what might happen if we should get another flood. but nonetheless, everyone performed very well, and the word of language we put into the 2020 system performs very well. general graham, as the corps plans and budgets for future projects, do you believe it's
6:21 pm
important to take into account safety benefits like you did in the tulsa levees chiefs report? >> senator, absolutely. >> this is -- i have to say, we really did a good job in terms of the private sector. we had to make some changes in our current statutes to accommodate that at the time, and things did work and worked out real well. we don't have many hurricanes that hit oklahoma, but what is important to remember is that the oklahoma is connected, as arkansas is, to the mississippi river. a lot of people have a hard time understanding that we in oklahoma are navigable. i have probably said this 300 or 400 times in the last few years to let people know we need to be a part of a system in
6:22 pm
participating in the system, and have actually done really good work in terms of working with the private sector. colonel murphy, i would have to say this, i'm sure senator boozman and i spent a lot of time working on these -- on the impact of the navigation way. colonel murphy, is it true that getting our navigable waterways open to commerce is key to a successful recovery effort? and how does the corps prioritize dredging efforts following flooding and storm surge events? >> senator, thank you for the question. i would say absolutely. that's one of the first things we're looking to do as soon as we can get boats on the road and in the water. i have survey boats on the waterways i'm responsible for to get surveys in conjunction with the coast guard to clear them. >> okay. i appreciate that.
6:23 pm
the 2019 flooding was a shock and exposed a lot of gaps in our system, but we're lucky in oklahoma to have numerous private sector entities where we had to bend the law a little bit to make it happen. what i would like to ask you to do is to, for the panel, for the future, look at the authorities, what authorities does the corps need to enable them to respond as capably as they did respond in this case, and this might be something you can do for the record, get your ideas together as to how can we work more efficiently with the private sector, such as we did in the state of oklahoma. okay. very good. thank you. >> thank you. senator whitehouse. >> thank you, senator. welcome, all of you. i'm glad to have you here. i represent rhode island, and up
6:24 pm
in new england, the most extreme climate related shift that we have seen has been in the form of extreme rainfall. it's kind of off the charts. and in terms of a persistent underlying shift related to climate, what we see coming is sea level rise. in fact, we're going to have to redraw the map of rhode island to accommodate the loss of seashore and what is now land turning into an archipelago of flooded islands. against that backdrop, we experienced dramatic failure of fema mapping. and i read press reports that in texas, fema mapping was off by as much as 50% when floods hit the houston area. as a result, rhode island has
6:25 pm
had to do its own mapping, going back to the original data and bringing in our own scientists, and as a result, we have a very, i believe, accurate and successful mapping tool called storm tools, that has been run by our agency, the rhode island coastal resources management council. it is annoying as hell to fund fema and also have the state of rhode island have to pay for its own mapping because fema mapping isn't accurate. i know fema ducked because a lot of the reason for the inaccuracy was they would have to bake in climate change. and they're very powerful forces that want to punish anybody who talks about climate change, so fema took a dive on this one, in my view. but the result is one that you all have to live with all the time, which is bad maps. what are you doing to try to make sure that you're operating
6:26 pm
off good flood maps and when you have to come in with emergency ready bonds, people aren't being clobbered by the fact they didn't know they were in a flood zone so they didn't have the proper insurance, so they're stuck. you're in middle of all that. what's the view from the front? >> senator, thank you for that question. many projects that the corps does, there's two imperatives. we want to make sure we get the engineering right and we want to make sure we're in control of the projects and are good stewards of the taxpayers' money. to your comments to make sure we understand the topography and hydrology, we agree that's absolutely essential, and that's the bedrock that all that engineering is founded upon. and i'll go back and relook based on the information you provided to make sure we are indeed using the best science available. >> i think often predictions
6:27 pm
related to climate change are simply zero factored out, which is just simply bad predictions when we know perfectly well what's going on here, and you see a change and then you act as if it's going to go straight from here over, rather than continue its trajectory when there's zero science to support that proposition that it's going to go level state. so please take a look at that. the other thing i want to flag for this hearing and for my colleagues which i always do, is that we're talking about ida. ida hit, that's a coastal flood. the army corps of engineers had something called the flood and coastal storm damage reduction program. and in the last decade, it's run inland over coasts by 19-1, and that was our best year, that's the tail end of a 19-1 losing battle.
6:28 pm
120-1, $1 for coats for every $120 for inland, and the fy-'22 budget, it's 45-1, somewhere in the middle. $1 for coastal, to every $45 for inland. i want to thank the corps for agreeing to take a hard look at this and understand what's going on. we look at ida coming ashoir in a coastal storm, the idea that you can set up your inland -- your flood and coastal storm damage reduction program in a way that so inexplicably favors inland flooding over coastal flooding as a matter of real concern to those of us who represent coastal states and have huge flooding issues like what storm tools reveal about rhode island. so we're working on that, but i just didn't want to let this opportunity go by without
6:29 pm
raising the astounding discrepancy and what it means for the state. >> thank you very much. and thank you all for being here. we really do appreciate your service to our country. you all have outstanding careers and you have served in different ways. i want to associate myself with senator inhofe's words regarding the importance of getting back on track and the benefit to the economy and those kind of things. it's been a great champion, a great leader in that for many years, and it really is important, not only to our states but to the economy of the entire country, and really the world. so major general graham, media reports that the cost of damage from hurricane ida could be as high as $95 billion. this compares to $170 billion
6:30 pm
resulting from katrina. $131 billion from harvey. and $74 billion from sandy. according to estimates from the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, in your testimony, you discussed how our country invested $14.5 billion to reduce flood risk in new orleans. i like how you used the term investment instead of appropriated or obligated because infrastructure projects truly are an investment. especially ones such as the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system that did protect new orleans, which saves this country, and more importantly, saves lives. i guess the question is, do you believe the american people received a good return on the $14.5 billion investment? if so, why? >> senator, thank you for that
6:31 pm
question. i think certainly it was a great investment. i was able to visit colonel murphy about a week after the storm hit. and i was expecting to have to stay out in mobile or maybe up in baton rouge, but once the storm hit, the amazing city of new orleans was back on its feet. it would not have been back on its feet if it wasn't for the $14.5 billion investment. >> very good. colonel murphy, in your opening statement, you talked about the team effort between the federal, state, and local government, tribal and levee boards to address the damage caused by hurricane ida. in your opinion, how much does it help the corps when they're able to lean on their non-federal sponsors? and what are the benefits of having local side-by-side with the federal government when addressing the aftermath of extreme weather events, and i would say not only the aftermath, but the precursor.
6:32 pm
>> senator y tell you in short, having a single nonfederal sponsor through the state has been invaluable. just during the storm, i was talking to the governor directly via phone call and text. i was talking to chairman klein with the state's coastal protection and restoration authority. and i push out what we call lgl, local government liaisons, but corps employees directly to the parish and levee operation centers, and that communication has facilitated and created a one door to the corps approach whereby questions, concerns are immediately answered, and we can consult problems so it helps quicken our response. i would attribute a lot of the communication that exists right now to why we have been successful to date. >> colonel, what other corps
6:33 pm
constructed flood and storm damage reduction projects within the new orleans district apart from hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system were impacted by hurricane ida, and what is your assessment of their performance? i had the opportunity to be down there in congressman scalise's district, which is -- butts up to new orleans, and after katrina, i know there was tremendous impact. sometimes we leave those areas out. but tell us what else was impacted? >> thank you, senator. i would say on their -- like i made during my opening remarks, any federal system performed as designed. we didn't see any major overtime, certainly not on the hurricane damage. outside of that, we have over a billion dollars in supplemental
6:34 pm
projects that we didn't see any major impacts on. sadly enough for the west shore lake pontchartrain project, unfortunately, that was not in place. the good news is we're actually moving forward with contracts. we just left the first contract on that. and that will reduce risk to one of the most heavily impacted areas of the storm, and with those contracts in place, really, the majority of them have come here in 2022, we'll be well on our way to completing the project. >> very good. you have a good story to tell. thank you. >> senator caputo. >> thank you. and thank you all for being here. after i question and the chairman is giving me the time, i have to go to another 11:00 meeting. so i want to thank you. i'm going to start with you, colonel murphy, on a quiz. you said navigation routes, the busiest in mississippi, the third is inland waterway. what's the one in the middle?
6:35 pm
>> senator, it's ohio. >> i was hoping you would say that. just happen to run right along the western border of my state. major general graham, thank you. this is the second time we have gotten to work together, so this is great. i'm going to say something that we talked about pre-disaster mitigation and how important that is, and it's interesting to hear my colleagues talk about these really flash rain that sort of sits, and that was our last flood in 2016. it was very devastating, as you know. but what we hear from our local partners sometimes, and even fema in some sense, and i am not laying blame here, is that sometimes the processes to get help are so daggone complicated. you have an opportunity through the climate program that you said you wrote that has five different aspects to it. i think really streamline some of these.
6:36 pm
you know, if i look at my cities and towns and counties, they don't have flood disaster experts. they have got somebody that's tasked with that, but they're also tasked with traffic or some other trash pickup or some other functions because they're spread pretty thin. you all have that expertise, and i think as much as you can streamline those processes in working with your local partners, certainly in new orleans, they have a lot of experience with it, but what we found was it was just chaos, but managed chaos. but i think we could have done better with it and recovered quicker had we had a little bit more hand holding and simplistic way to react to some of those. so i want to ask you, just to put that on your radar screen. we have just appropriated $5.7 billion in supplemental appropriations in the continuing resolution. and i was wondering, you know, your process and timeline for expending this funds, if you have ideas on that, and also
6:37 pm
will you make sure that that information regarding its funding when we make requests for information, that that comes in a timely fashion? >> ranking member caputo, in terms of transparency to respond to your committee's request, absolutely. we are absolutely committed to be responsive on those. to the timeline on getting that $5.71 billion that we just received at work for the american people, we're working on that right now. we're looking at the investigation projects, the construction projects, certainly we're looking at the mississippi river project. and the onm work we have got, and our goal is, as with any of the disaster supplementals, to get the work delivered as fast as we can. >> what's the timeline stretch on that, on those dollars, do you know? >> ma'am, i don't know. we'll get that answer back to your team. >> okay, thank you. general tickner, i think we were
6:38 pm
all astounded when we saw the video of the post of -- well, it wasn't the coast, it was hurricane ida flooding the subways in new york city. i think it was something we hadn't really ever anticipated. what do you attribute that to? was there something, again here, that predisaster could have been better performed to be able to mitigate that? because we saw obviously, as the colonel said, the predisaster we did in response to katrina actually prevented a lot less -- prevented a lot more damage in ida. so what do you see in the northeast in terms of very unlikely places to see pictures like that? >> ranking member caputo, i appreciate that question, and as an engineer, we all watched what happened in new york city. we don't really have a project there that takes care of that. but what happened was a large amount of rain fell in a very short period of time. record levels. and their storm water system, the drains, couldn't handle it.
6:39 pm
the roads turned into rivers. and water went to the lowest point. many of which was a basement. there were a lot of rescued that happened in the basement. then there was also folks trying to drive through that storm water, which once you get out of your vehicle, you're now fighting the water, and the power of water, it will overtake anybody. so regretfully, new york city had 18 deaths. new jersey had even more, with 30 i believe. so from talking to my counterparts at the state level, from a pure flash flood, where we're not putting in a project, it's about education and letting people know this risk is out there. don't go into the water. regretfully, some people lived in the basements, and hopefully that problem is being corrected where they have a way out. >> i would say that the bill
6:40 pm
that we passed, the safe drinking water, waste water, and was incorporated in terms of trying to manage or trying to modernize some of these old storm systems, i don't know how old new york city's storm system is, but i would imagine it's in excess probably of 100 years. certainly we have systems that old in our state. and then to try to manage that, so this is where i think if we do on the front end what we know to be -- have fallacies on the back end, we're going to end up saving money, saving lives, saving property. but we got to make these processes for communities and states to access these dollars so they actually feel like they can work with you and work with other local partners, fema and whoever, to be able to get these projects up and running. so thank you all very much. and i appreciate all your good hard work. thank you.
6:41 pm
>> senator, thanks so much. thanks for keeping the train on time. the army is always on time. it's the navy we worry about, right? i like to say different uniforms, same team. how is that? colonel murphy, let me say this could be for anybody, but in terms of what we witnessed in the new york, greater new york, the subway flooding and that sort of thing, my sense is that with the climate change we're seeing and the more intense rain, in some cases we're seeing storms hunker down and sit on an area for a while, creating a lot of flooding. is that a fair calculation, to anybody? >> chairman, i believe it is. that's a fair characterization.
6:42 pm
and that massive rainfall events that we weren't expecting is what caught a lot of people by surprise. we saw the tragedies in western tennessee with some of the mountain flooding in the valleys where we tragically lost lives this year. if you were to ask somebody in new york city, do you think that could happen here? i would guess they would say it couldn't. so i think education on this coming out of this is probably our best defense. >> gentlemen, anyone else want to comment? i know you weren't trained -- i wasn't either, in weather or meteorologist. >> i'll just mention a little bit maybe beyond new york city where we have started to build over the last 100 years in the flood plains. that is something that i know our state partners are very concerned with because they don't want to just do projects. they would like to do natural and nature-based features. and not in structural, which
6:43 pm
could be moving people out of the flood plain that exists today. >> thank you. i want to put a human face on it, so when hurricane ida came up the east coast, it spawned some tornadoes. one tornado ripped through the area just on the other side of delaware, the memorial bridge, and it struck a family, a number of them, but a family farm of katie. we know her, she's my communications director from delaware and lives in new jersey. their family farm was destroyed, houses, buildings, equipment. and so we know that the human face, the people we know, and there are a lot of other folks that are suffering, we're suffering, are suffering. all of this, but hurricane ida was the first big test of the new hurricane storm risk reduction system. and by most accounts, maybe by all accounts, it was given an "a."
6:44 pm
i didn't get a whole lot of as when i was in school, but that's very encouraging to hear. but this is only partly the picture. it doesn't function without tireless communication and collaboration with other critical players. my question, this will be, i think, colonel, for you please. please tell us about the differences between the corps' response to hurricane katrina and rita, and the response to hurricane ida. what were the biggest changes and lessons learned from previous storms that you put into use in responding to hurricane ida? >> thank you, chairman. i could spnt 30 minutes but i won't. i would tell you a big difference is the systems approach that the corps now uses. before katrina, it was the hurricane protection system, and it was a system in name only. it allowed water into the city
6:45 pm
via canals. and it was incrementally funded. so i would say a huge change as the corps approached it as a system, which i think has applications on what this committee is interested in, how do we get after coastal resilience, how do we get after flooding, looking at things as a system. so federal funding, key lesson learned. all the talents and it technology that the corps had, we see today in the system. it allows decisions to be made that are not funding based, but they're risk based. you see that in what performed during hurricane ida. i would say we have a willing federal partner, a single federal partner that did not exist between katrina, and now with the state y work with the coastal protection restoration agency, and they work with the levee districts. now, the communication is back and forth, but i have a single state sponsor who is responsible for working real estate issues who i work with on payback and
6:46 pm
accounting issues, and third, i would say another key enabler was the alternative environmental arrangements. there's no way to build the kind of infrastructure you need without having some kind of environmental alternative arrangement to allowia to move quickly. now, we still met those environmental requirements, but what really congress allowed working with ceq after katrina, we were able to move forward very quickly. >> you didn't need 30 minutes. you have 27 more minutes. we'll just put that in the bank. i'm going to turn next to general graham for a question pertaining to climate change and project design. as i mentioned earlier, the intensity, the frequency, the duration of storms has increased significantly. and as climate continues to -- warmer climate continues, hurricane intensity and rainfall are expected to increase as we
6:47 pm
experience the impacts of climate change, the way in which we approach risk reduction must take these factors into account. i want to be brief on this because i want to represent senator kelly shortly. does the corps currently account for climate change in its design process for flood risk management projects? >> sir, it does. absolutely. i'll give you a very quick example. we're working on a project, it's on highway 1, which goes through the florida keys and the southern tip of florida. we have formulated that project, designed that project for the high sea level curve, so we have the authority to use the higher sea level curve and that's what we're using for this project. >> good. i have a follow-up question for the entire panel. i'm going to yield to senator kelly. he's a man on a mission and he can ask his questions and head to the next assignment. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
6:48 pm
and thank you for all the witnesses today for being here. general graham, this question is for you on emergency preparedness in arizona. you have spoken both in your testimony about the lessons that the army corps of engineers learned from hurricane katrina and how those lessons informed the corps' response to hurricane ida. but of course, the goal of emergency preparedness should be to be ready to respond to any catastrophe the first time. with a changing climate affecting all aspects of the country differently, preparing for the worst case scenarios everywhere is even more important. that's why i was pleased to see that the los angeles district partner with the arizona department of emergency and military affairs in early september to host an emergency exercise to plan for a scenario where above average rainfall in arizona causes the corps' painted rock dam to fail and
6:49 pm
risk significant downstream flooding. so general, can you describe the value that tabletop exercises like the one hosted in arizona could provide to the corps as you prepare for the worst case scenarios? what value do exercises like these provide to the corps as you work to respond to the real world damages like those caused by hurricane ida? >> senator kelly, certainly thank you for that question. we were all watching the monsoon season very, very wet monsoon season down in new mexico and arizona closely. so those exercises at our south pacific division did in the albuquerque district were key to making sure that the partnership that colonel murphy spoke to that worked so well within the state of louisiana, that we build that connective tissue within our state partners in arizona. it's the make a friend before you need a friend. and it's really all about trust.
6:50 pm
in the middle of a disaster, if you have to establish that trust beforehand, you have the storm norm and perform during the hurricane or the storm, and we don't want to do that. it's absolutely key, those exercises are, to building trust in the whole of government team. >> yeah, it just reminds me of, you know, not only flying the space shuttle simulatorb, but at times we also do tabletop a lot of different scenarios that often are rather complex. in arizona right now as you know, we have had the worst drought in our country's history, in arizona's history. i have a subcommittee hearing on this specific issue later today to discuss what do we do here going forward to mitigate for this drought. as we have -- because of climate issues we're facing, we have had one of our worst wildfire seasons.
6:51 pm
as you know, after the fire, if it rains, comes the flooding. we have been dealing with that. so i appreciate you doing this. i have another question about corps benefit cost ratio, general. as you know, the corps makes most construction and investigation investments based on a project's benefit to cost ratio as a way to measure the value of the project. you know, what value that project will provide to the surrounding community, including preventing a worst case scenario during a disaster. i like many folks on this committee, many senators on the committee, support efforts to insure a project's benefit to cost ratio reflects not just the monetary value of property damage, but the risks to life and health of those affected by a potential corps project. general, when you look across the country, do you believe the corps does a good job at prioritizing investments in the
6:52 pm
construction and investigation projects which are most likely to prevent future disasters? >> senator kelly, thank you for that question. on anything we do, there's always room for improvement. for the benefits you spoke of, we often evaluate a project on its economic development benefit said. we're working now to incorporate three other benefits, and those are the regional economic benefits, other societal effects and environmental benefits as well. those includes the life health safety you just spoke to. we want to make sure we are including all of those when we design our studies. >> well, thank you, general graham, and thank you to all of you for being here today. and i yield back 18 seconds. >> we appreciate each one of those 18 seconds. senator kelly, thanks. you had a full plate this morning. thanks for making time to come by and participate. i want to recognize senator kelly was talking to general
6:53 pm
graham about climate change and project design. i asked, does the corps currently account for climate change in its design processes for flood risk management projects. so you were good enough to answer that. and i wanted to do a follow up to that question for the rest of the panel, if i could. and that would be, how does the corps adapt its design processes with rapid advances in science and our increased understanding of the interconnectivity of these systems? keeping in mind the increased frequency and intensity of climate related impacts into our future. and would you like to take a shot at that, and then we'll come back to general graham. >> chairman carper, thanks for the question. we have lots of projects on the northeast that we're studying. and we do take the current science, you know, the existing engineering that's out there that's really not changing because science and the new data
6:54 pm
that's coming in with climate change is adjusting our projects. you see that on the coastal projects that we have in delaware and new jersey and maryland. with the system we have that is also going on, to all of our flood risk management projects, as we look at the potential water that has to pass through safely, past urban areas and to whether we're going to let it expand or go out to sea. >> colonel murphy, anything you want to add to this? >> i would say down in the mississippi, chairman, i would say down in mississippi valley division, which is my headquarters, we have the engineer research and development center, which is a corps of engineers, and for a lot of our issues, we're working closely with them to get -- they are our lead for science,
6:55 pm
technology, and i can tell you just on studies in the lower mississippi river, we're incorporating the best science and data that they have helped to provide us. >> thank you. general, anything you want to add before we turn the page? >> just reemphasize that research and development aspects of this, which we know the world is changing, and to mack sure that we're on a solid foundation of science is absolutely critical. >> all right, thank you. we ought to be guided by science, not blinded by science. that's good. general tickner, if i could, another question for you regarding flooding impacts in urban areas. not like what we saw in the greater wilmington, delaware, area when the hurricane came through, your command covers the north atlantic region which includes some of the most densely populated areas in our nation. while ida had weakened by the time it made its way up the east
6:56 pm
coast, it produced devastating impacts throughout the region, including my home state of delaware. could you just describe for us briefly some of the specific challenges that the corps faces in conducting flood response in urban environments? and how did you overcome them and how might be better overcome them in the future? >> thank you. it's a shared response. we're working closly with all of the states, definitely delaware, but through all the states in the northeast. and it's a combination of structural things that the corps of engineers would come up with, nonstructural, moving folks out of the flood plain, it's allowing the water to expand into certain areas like parks or other environmental habitats. it's other educational tools to
6:57 pm
allow people to know what could happen in their area. river gauges, installing more of them, which goes right to the early warning systems. one of the successes that i have heard from the states was they were able to warn their citizens, you know, through the automated systems out there. they knew flash flooding was happening because of the river gauges, and so it's a partnership and a shared responsibility. >> all right, thank you. general graham, a different question f i might. one that deals with environmental justice. communities, there's a lot of them, around the country, but general graham, despite the recent supplemental bills that have provided a significant increase in federal investments for critical infrastructure, the impact of the storms like ida will always disproportionately affect those who may not have the means to evacuate in a timely manner, especially those in economically disadvantaged communities with large environmental justice populations. and rather than mitigating the
6:58 pm
damage from these storms on the back end, it's imperative that we invest up front to protect those communities that need the most help. and my question would be, would you just discuss with us for a bit how the corps is specifically helping these communities from future storms or natural disasters? >> chairman carper, thank you for that question. the guidance we received from president biden is absolutely clear, to focus the federal investments on environmental justice. one of the areas, and i'll focus up in the northeast, would be the back bay. we have put coastal stormers, management systems, the dune systems that you're familiar with, on the coast facing the oceans. and a lot of the flooding also happens around the back bays, and often time the folks that live back there aren't as well off. and there's a great deal of
6:59 pm
environmental justice concerns back there. so we're formulating a bunch of those projects. certainly general tickner is right now. and those will soon be some of them have already been in front of this committee, and some of the larger ones will soon be there. but i think that's how -- one aspect of how we're getting at that. >> all right, thank you. i have more questions i would like to ask, but i'm needed back at the homeland security governmental affairs as they mark up the business meeting, so they're saving you from further damage than i might inflict. actually, i have not inflicted any. you have been very forthright and clear minded in your responses. i just want to have a brief closing statement here and then i can look for a couple more questions for the record that i would like to ask. you'll be able to receive those shortly. before we adjourn, a little housekeeping, i would like to ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a variety of
7:00 pm
materials that include letters from stakeholders and other materials linked to today's hearing. and asking unanimous consent. i'm the only one in the room, that's a pretty easy thing to do, so no objection. additionally, senators will be allowed to ask additional questions through close of business on wednesday, october 20th. we'll compile those and send them to the witnesses and ask that you reply to us by wednesday, november 3rd. and in closing, i just want to thank our witnesses for your testimony. self and i future resr the men and women and what you do for that nation. so many of your teams with military work around the clock to help american suffering in the wake of these disasters. i want to make sure the corps is equipped with what they need to
7:01 pm
mitigate these conditions in amidst the worsening climate crisis. with that, we are dismissed, thank you again so much, thank you all to see you all. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
7:02 pm
american history -- saturday on c-span. exploring the people and events that tell the american story. at 8 am eastern -- to discussions about americas -- first -- talks about presidential -- from the 1970s through the 1990s -- from network television about
7:03 pm
the internet -- dickinson college professor, examines presidential -- contribute to making a successful -- and at 2 pm eastern, attorney general for the district -- discusses his -- law and the limits of loyalty, in which he discusses whether president truman established -- supreme court. explore the american story. american history tv, saturday on c-span two. deputy defense secretary kathleen hicks -- challenges u.s. military. hosted by the center for strategic and international studies, this is an hour. hello everyone, and a very warm welcome to our viewers, here in the un


1 Favorite

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on